James Ellery, southern region coordinator for the UN Mission in Sudan, said the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) guerrillas must be turned into an apolitical group that could fulfil their role in last year's peace agreement, Reuters Daniel Wallis
reported June 1, 2006. Excerpt:
"This is crucial work that is yet to be done," Ellery told Reuters on Thursday at his headquarters in the southern capital Juba.
"The SPLA is not the right sort of army for peacetime, never mind a federal, or perhaps eventually a sovereign, setting."
But Ellery said he did not share criticism of the government of south Sudan, which is 80 percent controlled by the SPLA, most of whose leaders spent two decades in the bush.
"The task they face is gargantuan," he said. "This area has been astonishingly neglected and systematically excluded from development for 50 years."
Southern Sudan is one of the poorest places on earth, with vast mined areas, few tarmac roads and little infrastructure.
Analysts say the north has the capacity to implement the peace agreement, but has shown little political will, while the SPLA is committed, but is weak and disorganised.
Under the [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] deal, most of the northern troops in the south are to be withdrawn. Ellery said that was well under way.
"Most mornings you see them leaving from the airport," he said. "Khartoum has now pulled out 56 percent, and everybody accepts that figure, so they are well ahead of the 50 percent of troops they committed to withdraw before the start of July."
He said the peace agreement was "broadly on track". There remained significant differences between both sides over the future of disputed areas, he said, and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of combatants had not started.
He said the most problematic area included Upper Nile state, where nearly 50 people were killed in April in clashes between two factions of the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), which fought with Khartoum against the SPLA during the war.
One SSDF faction joined SPLA forces and the other joined the government army after the peace deal stipulated that armed groups had to join the army or the former rebels. Ellery said the area had been calm since.
"Things became unravelled there briefly, but now we can say that disarmament in the most difficult part of the country is going well, at the moment," Ellery said.